There is so much on my mind after reading Taherah Mafi’s latest book that I am unable to accumulate my thoughts. Before I begin my review I would like for you to know a few things about me; I am a hijabi, I don’t live in US and I have never been a victim of racism (I have travelled outside my home country).
“It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.”
I can never compare to the experiences of all those who were and still are being harassed for the religious choices that they have made. So I will take this book in the other direction, which is of people having presumptions about why a muslim girl wears a hijab or what kind of a person she is because she wears a hijab or what kind of a family she belongs to because she wears a hijab.
I know not everyone is like that, but some people often make assumptions about an individual, instead of making an effort to find out who the real person is. Similarly the students of Shirin’s high school assumed that her parents forced this upon her. Shirin was looked in a different light until she showed the students that she is more than the piece of cloth covering her head. As a hijabi, I go through the same thing but on a lighter note; when someone finds out that I am an avid reader or have a blog or I am a fitness instructor, it comes as a shock to them. People can’t seem to think beyond appearances.
I didn’t agree with some of the things Shirin said about clothing choices but then again that’s my religious preference and I don’t impose it on others. I am not a perfect muslim girl, I have my own flaws and hence I’m no one to judge someone else on their beliefs. I think that’s exactly what this book tells us amongst many other things. For instance, Ocean didn’t care about whether she wore a hijab or what religion she followed, he fell in love with the girl she was. I was in awe of Shirin’s strength. Her journey was not an easy one but she never gave up on her faith and I wish I could hug her.
I loved Taherah’s writing. It has a power to pull the reader completely in its story. It was difficult to put this book down and I read it slowing just to make the book last longer. One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Shirin said “It gives the bullies power [if she took off the hijab]. It would mean they’d succeeded making me feel like who I was and what I believed in was something to be ashamed of.”
Taherah Mafi you stole my heart with this book and I am so glad I made the decision to read it.